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The Hole in Our Lives



Nokia Internet‘s Jeremy Wagstaff has written a really good article about on the “hole” in our lives that companies are recognizing and trying to fill with the UMPC / internet tablet / mini computer. The hole, as recognized by many, is the place between a cell phone and laptop.

In a lot of ways, Jeremy is spot on, especially with companies trying to shove too much into a small platform, when all we want is some “hole filler’ devices that excel at flling that hole. Having used both a Nokia N800 Internet Tablet and quite a few Windows based UMPCs, I can definitely see his argument and I think it has a lot of merit.


All of these devices call themselves Ultramobile PCs, or UMPCs, a category that has already attracted a good number of yawns. I suspect part of the reason is that most manufacturers have packed in everything they can think of, trying to turn the UMPC into something as powerful as a laptop, without realizing that they’re solving the wrong problem. No one who uses a laptop is going to ditch it for good for one of these things, so these devices stand and fall on what they can offer that the laptop can’t: lower price, ease of use and fun. And, given that few UMPCs sell for less than $1,000, price isn’t it. By installing Windows Vista, you’re ruling out the other two because this is software designed for a fully fledged computer, not something that would get you away from that world.

The recent excitement about the iPhone illustrates, among other things, that we have a more emotional relationship with our gadgets than some manufacturers allow for. It’s all about an experience — the physical feel of the device, the elegance of its interface, the interaction with it. The more connected we become, the more important this will become, because those devices serve as conduits to the worlds and communities we inhabit online. The lesson? Filling the Hole means taking the lessons we’ve learned with cellphones, iPods and iPhones and applying them to devices that are a little larger, not the other way around: trying to cram our workshop tools into something smaller.

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